Microsoft Finds Spyware In Austrian Firm

Reuters: London According to Microsoft security researchers, an Austrian company was responsible for a number of cyberattacks against banks, legal firms, and strategic consulting businesses in at least three different countries. According to a blog post published by Microsoft on Wednesday, the company DSIRF created spyware called “Subzero” that uses so-called Zero-day exploits to access private data like passwords or logon credentials. Spyware is malicious software designed to spy on or steal information from a target’s device.

Without naming the victims, the post stated that “observed victims to date include law companies, banks, and strategic consultancies in nations including Austria, the United Kingdom, and Panama.” DSR Decision Supporting Information Research Forensic GmbH, situated in Vienna, did not answer inquiries for comment made by phone or email. Because they function even when software is up to date, zero-day vulnerabilities are major software weaknesses that are highly valuable to both hackers and spies.

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The name refers to how much time people have to patch their computers in order to be protected; a two-day defect is less hazardous because it only manifests two days after a patch is made available. Such tools are created by some cybersecurity companies to be used in conjunction with regular “pentesting,” also known as penetration testing, to evaluate a company’s digital defences against malicious attacks. Microsoft Security Unit general manager Cristin Goodwin, who wrote the study, told Reuters: “Microsoft’s engagement with a victim verified they had not consented to red teaming and malware deployment, and confirmed it was illegal conduct.”

The German news site Netzpolitik obtained a copy of an internal presentation from DSIRF that described Subzero as a “next generation cyber warfare” programme that can seize total control of a target’s PC, collect passwords, and locate it. Another slide in same presentation demonstrated many applications for the malware, including counterterrorism, the pursuit of human trafficking and child pornographic networks, and others.

Microsoft’s findings come as the United States and Europe consider stronger regulations for spyware providers, a rapidly expanding and unregulated worldwide sector, and after it was discovered that governments were using the Pegasus malware created by Israel’s NSO to spy on journalists and dissidents. According to Shane Huntley, Senior Director of the Threat Analysis Group at Alphabet, “This sector appears to be thriving,” he told a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday.

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